The great theologian and Pastor John Bunyan once told his church that, “I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the word of God as now: those scriptures that I saw nothing in before, are made in this place and state to shine upon me: Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now; here I have seen and felt Him indeed…I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of my sins in this place, and of my being with Jesus in another world.”
But what makes this words remarkable is the “place and state” from which they came. They came from prison. Bunyan looked around his prison and concluded that God had never been so good, true or real to him. WOW!
How do you wind up at such a conclusion? You understand that God has called of us to suffer. One of Bunyan’s favorite verses was John 16:33:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Bunyan new that his imprisonment was a manifestation of Jesus’ prophetic words. He knew that all who followed Christ were called to suffer. And he also knew that his suffering was not a pointless act caused by irrational men. He knew that the great king of heaven who had conquered death on the cross ruled the universe. He knew that rage and malice of men “can do no more, nor go any further, than God permits them; but when they have done their worst, We know that all things shall work together for good to them that love God.” .
And so as the prison doors shut behind him, Bunyan entrusted his soul, life, and cares to God. Admittedly prison was not easy for Bunyan. He confessed that he was continually “afflicted and oppressed” by his own worries and struggles. Yet, he clung to the cross as the years slipped away. As he stood steadfast, Christ comforted Bunyan, enlarged his faith, and inspired him to write Pilgrim’s Progress. Because of God’s faithfulness, Bunyan could boast of the glories of prison!
How about us? What happens when we encounter trials? Do we praise God? Do find that we have a better understand of the Bible and of God’s love in the midst of suffering? Or do we become distressed, upset, and burned out with religion?
How we answer the question reveals much about our heart and character. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus talks about two men who build spiritual houses. One builds his house upon the sand of human experience, ideas, and emotions. The other builds his house on the Word of God. And when the storms of life come, the house built on the sand collapses while the house built on the Scriptures remains firm.
What Christ was pointing to and what Bunyan live out was this simple truth: Those who love God will withstand trials. When they get hit by the storms of death, disappointment, and sorrow, they will remain firm. They will grow by God’s grace.
But those who have not trusted in Christ, will be blown away. Their lives will collapse because they never knew Jesus.
So how are you doing when trials come your way? Can you boast about the prisons in your life?